September 17, 2004
Tom Farrell, 605-745-1130
If weather and fuel conditions permit, fire officials at Wind Cave National Park plan to conduct two prescribed burns this fall. Areas to be burned include 1000 acres near the Rankin Ridge Fire Tower, in the north-central section of the park, and in partnership with the United States Forest Service, 800 acres in the southwestern corner of the park. These burns will be conducted on separate days and could take place anytime this fall until December 1.
Doug Alexander, Northern Great Plains Area Fire Management Officer, said, “The primary purposes of these burns are to reduce accumulated fuel loads and overstory canopy cover, increase native grasses, and to reintroduce fire into the ecosystem.”
These fires will occur in areas that are both mixed-grass prairie and ponderosa pine forest. The burns will be conducted with assistance from other National Park Service units, the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other local cooperators.
Hiking trails in and adjacent to the burn areas will be closed during the fires. Smoke from the fires may be heavy at times and will be visible from the surrounding region.
These fires represent a continuation of the park's successful prescribed fire program which began in 1972. A segment of the park is burned each year, under controlled conditions, to simulate natural fires which historically burned the forest and prairie. Prescribed fires maintain the balance between forest and prairie, remove the buildup of dead fuels lessening the chance of a catastrophic wildfire, and rejuvenate the native prairie grasses.
Prescribed fires are carefully conducted under identified and approved prescription conditions. Factors such as humidity, fuel moisture, wind speed and direction, and short and long-range weather patterns are all considered in establishing the acceptable conditions for conducting a prescribed fire.
If the prescribed set of conditions do not exist on a specific day, the planned fire is postponed. For this reason, it is impossible to accurately predict the exact days these prescribed fires will be conducted.